Vice President of Student Affairs Says $15 Minimum Wage Is Possible for UMD Students
Months after the United Students Against Sweatshops chapter at the University of Maryland began pushing for a wage increase for all workers, the chapter still has no set date or clear path to a minimum wage. $15 for students.
It’s possible that some departments may be able to raise the minimum wage for student workers by July 1, Vice President of Student Affairs Patty Perillo said.
Perillo and Senior Associate Vice President for Health and Wellness Dr. Warren Kelley met with USAS, a student labor organization that advocates for all campus workers, on March 4.
Perillo said she would “regularly” stay in touch with USAS about the progress of salary increases by emailing the group every three to four weeks. Perillo also said she would update USAS “immediately” if she had anything substantial to offer.
“We will come to a minimum student wage of $15. We’re going. The question is timing,” Perillo told The Diamondback. “There is a commitment from the president [Darryll] Pins, provost [Jennifer] Rice, myself and other vice presidents.
While some departments such as Residential Facilities, the Department of Resident Life and Food Services may take less than four months to reach a minimum wage of $15 for all workers, other departments may take up to eight months, Perillo said in an email.
Perillo also said there is an inherent cost that the administration must cover if the minimum wage is raised. She cited higher tuition or a reduction in services or programs, though she did not commit to either option.
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“We’re exploring what we can do to do that without too much cost to students in terms of fees or in terms of reducing operations or programs,” Perillo said.
Sushanth Gupta, co-chair of the USAS Student Workers Organizing Committee, said Perillo’s failure to commit to a fixed date for a raise was “expected but still disappointing.”
“We want a real firm commitment, not just a vague date range,” the agricultural and resource economics major said. “It would mean a lot more if she said, ‘Listen, you can make us meet this eight-month deadline. At that time, every working student will earn at least $15 per hour. However, that was not the case.
USAS had been trying to secure a meeting with Perillo since December after he held a town hall to advocate for a $15 minimum wage, which Perillo said she could not attend due to a staff dispute. schedule at the time.
Now, some USAS members say the March 4 meeting was not productive.
During the meeting, Alena Sergeyev, a young government and politics student, shared her experiences working at the South Campus dining hall last semester.
For example, Sergeyev mentioned that, in his experience, students do not treat food service workers with respect. She felt that her concerns were being dismissed and that USAS members’ testimonies were being used against them.
“My point was that the work is hard and we should be paid more,” Sergeyev said.
In an email, Perillo wrote after hearing Sergeev’s story she would follow up with catering services.
Perillo and Kelley said they felt the meeting with USAS was productive.
“It’s always helpful for Warren and I to hear student testimonials, the lived experience of students,” Perillo said. “There are several things that we learned from these testimonies that we will both follow.”
But Gupta agreed with Sergeyev and said Perillo was moving away from the larger issue of dehumanization in the workplace.
“[Dehumanization] It can happen between students, but it’s also something that happens in an employee-employer relationship, especially when people are treated very badly or denied working conditions,” Gupta said.
Sarah Moghaddam, a first-year psychology student and community worker at La Plata Hall, said she worked eight-hour shifts but couldn’t eat at her desk despite the mask mandate being lifted.
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Moghaddam also added that some of his colleagues worked nine hours straight because CAs are not allowed to get up from the lobby desk unless a colleague is covering for them.
She said she was lucky to have good co-workers, but finding someone to replace you on night shifts can be difficult.
“There are just different nuances of the job that are not talked about, but collectively we deserve more than $12.50 an hour,” Moghaddam said.
During the meeting, Perillo emphasized to USAS that she and the rest of the administration were on their side when it came to raising salaries. Gupta rebuffed this claim.
“It’s kind of ironic to hear that we’re all on the same side,” Gupta said. “By necessity, you’re going to have an adversarial relationship with the administration because…if the administration just did what we want, then we wouldn’t exist.”